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    Artisanal marabu charcoal to become 1st Cuban export to US

    Artisanal marabu charcoal to become 1st Cuban export to US
    BY MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN
    Associated Press

    HAVANA
    Artisanal charcoal will become the first legal Cuban export to the
    United States in decades under a deal announced Thursday between Cuba’s
    government and the former lawyer for imprisoned U.S. government
    contractor Alan Gross.

    Attorney Scott Gilbert, who has sought to build economic ties between
    the two countries since Gross’ release, said a company that he founded
    will buy 40 tons of charcoal made from the invasive woody plant marabu.
    The charcoal is produced by hundreds of worker-owned cooperatives across
    Cuba and has become an increasingly profitable export, valued for its
    clean-burning properties and often used in pizza and bread ovens.

    Gilbert’s company will pay $420 a ton, which is significantly above the
    wholesale market price of about $360. The first delivery is scheduled
    for Jan. 18, two days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S.
    president.

    Products of privately run or cooperative farms in Cuba can be exported
    to the United States under measures introduced by President Barack Obama
    after the Dec. 17, 2014, declaration of detente with Cuba. The measures
    loosen a 55-year-old trade embargo on Cuba.

    The charcoal is sold by cooperatives to a local packager, which sells it
    on to state-run export firm CubaExport. Each middleman takes a 1 percent
    or 2 percent commission, CubaExport general director Isabel O’Reilly
    said. CubaExport said the charcoal would be the first legal export to
    the United States in more than five decades, and it hoped to expand the
    deal to include honey and coffee.

    The charcoal will be sold to restaurants and online to consumers in
    33-pound bags under the brand name Fogo, Gilbert said.

    Cuba sells about 40,000 to 80,000 tons of marabu charcoal annually to
    buyers in Italy, Germany and about a half dozen other countries,
    O’Reilly said.

    Gilbert said he was confident the Trump administration would allow the
    deal to continue, even though the president-elect has promised to
    reverse much of Obama’s opening with Cuba unless the island’s communist
    government makes political concessions.

    “I think that once they have examined this situation and looked at all
    the facts, that they will be supportive of increased engagement and the
    economic changes that it will bring,” Gilbert said.

    Under Obama’s changes, American visitors to Cuba can return with
    unlimited rum and cigars, but state-run companies cannot export those
    products to the U.S.

    Source: Artisanal marabu charcoal to become 1st Cuban export to US |
    Miami Herald –
    www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article124763374.html